The successor to Venezuela’s socialist leader Hugo Chavez, who died over four years ago, Nicolas Maduro, has been floundering for months. Hyperinflation, food rationing, failed government-provided services are just a few of the endemic problems. Daily protests across the country prompted his use of death squads, combined Cuban mercenaries, the National Guard, and conscripted local militia, to kill innocent people. On Sunday alone, 14 people were murdered. Two weeks ago, the National Assembly conducted a vote to ask Venezuelans if they wanted a new constitution. Even though there were many actions taken by Maduro’s government to thwart this election, 7.6 million people voted in this country of 30 million people. About 98% of the vote was for no new constitution. Furthermore, people voted that the armed forces should enforce the constitution and that the National Assembly not be changed.
Notwithstanding how the majority voted, Maduro continued with his quest to consolidate more power with the unwanted election. A sampling of what the new constitution bodes for “Venezuelan democracy” is reported allegedly by a former attorney general under Chavez, Luisa Ortega, as a conduit for a former member of Chavez’s Supreme Court:
- All schools will become public and curriculum selection and administration in general will be by the government;
- All private companies will become assets of the government and will be run by members of the military;
- All private property ownership will be dissolved and become assets of the government;
- The right to protest will no longer exist;
- The National Assembly members will be selected by Maduro.
- Presidential term will be for 20 years.
It took a while for the people of Venezuela to unify against the government under the auspices of MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica), United Democratic Table. As such, when elections were held last, 67% of the seats of the National Assembly were filled with “the opposition.”
How will Maduro accomplish his quest to consolidate power? Besides the usual intimidation techniques, Maduro used sleight of hand. Anyone working for a government company, e.g. Caracas METRO or PDVSA, the National oil company, was encouraged to sign up for a new card, Carnet de Patria (Country Card). The “bait” was to allow such cardholders preferential treatment to buy food at government stores. Besides the national identification code, aka cedula number, there are two additional numbers on the reverse side of the card. When one goes online on the CNE (national elections council) web page, and enters all three numbers, one at a time, there are three votes that will be allowed, not one. I witnessed this in person. Cute trick, huh?
The “opposition” encouraged Venezuelans to boycott Maduro’s unwanted election. Even though the head of the CNE stated that 99% of eligible voters showed up to vote, the streets were empty by comparison to the vote two weeks ago to thwart Maduro’s attempt to change the constitution. Remember the aforementioned Carnet de Patria? If you wanted a ride on the METRO, you had to show proof of voting. The bedridden in hospitals and clinics were bussed to voting precincts to vote for Maduro’s scheme. Only 25% of the eligible voters’ votes are needed to pass the new constitutional assembly of handpicked Maduro accomplices to change the constitution.
Why have there been protests for months on end with protesters being gunned down in the streets by government thugs? Since Maduro was “elected” in December 2013, the chance for a revocation vote was December 2016. The opposition garnered the signatures but Maduro’s CNE claimed once again that signatures were gained illegally. They foisted new procedures on the people only to cause further delays. Is this democratic? Why shove an unwanted constitutional convention of handpicked Maduro delegates to rewrite the constitution to stack the deck more versus holding the constitutionally legal revocation vote?
Since Jimmy Carter was not up to the task, Maduro got the ex-socialist president of Spain, Jose Luis Zapatero, to be an advisor and “sanctioner” of all things wanted by this corrupt government. Ask yourself why is Venezuela’s imminent death of democracy important to the United States? Three countries have a significant presence in Venezuela.
Chavez was cozy with Iran and purportedly built a missile launching area on the Paraguana Peninsula presenting it as a factory for building tractors or other industrial equipment. Russia and China have poured billions into the oil industry. China was invited to keep the Russians in check until the Chinese realize what useful idiots they had become. Venezuela is the new Cuba for Russia. Russia can add the strategic location to check the U.S. and control the largest oil reserves of any country in the world. This complements Russia’s energy stranglehold on Europe. Another country is flying under the radar but adds another dimension of threat, North Korea.
Many believe that the U.S. should sit this one out. Yes, we have lost many lives and treasure on recent wars to eradicate the roots of terrorism. If we want a launchpad of potential terrorists closer to the U.S., inaction is the answer. That’s certainly the answer Barack Obama gave us during his past administration.